Center for Research and Security Studies
Series: Olasi Adalat.
Topic: Rights of Minorities and Religious Harmony.
Guest#1: Ahmad Ali Fayaz, Religious scholar
Guest#2: Muhammad Kashif Kamal, Read Network Organization
Guest#3: Haroon Sarbadyal, President of Hindu Rights Movement.
Report: Khalida Niaz, Peshawar.
Anchor Person: Shams Mohmand
âThe very word âIslamâ means peace and protection but our society has lost all the important traits of Islam to display tolerance and religious harmony when we consider the state of minorities in Pakistan. According to Moulana Fayaz, people of all the communities including Muslims are faced with grave problems, âSome of the people are trying to portray Islam as a militant and backward religion. It is an international conspiracy to distort our image. It is natural that if our elders are insulted then furry is natural to emerge.â While Haroon Sarbadyal opine that society was very cohesive and tolerant before the Eighties in Pakistan and all the minorities enjoyed greater freedom. Kashif Kamal, on behalf of Read Network said that, âI stress the need for legal rights to all the communities. All the minorities should have equal opportunities to lead a normal life.â The sublime teachings of Islam about manners and human conduct are a key to achieve the goal of a religiously harmonious society in Pakistan.â
Shams Mohmand: With the name of Allah, The Merciful and Magnificent. Your host Shams Mohmand is here with Olasi Adalat on behalf of CRSS. We discuss different problems in our region. We seek the ways to solve these issues. Today we have to discuss an important issue. Minorities have enormous rights in Islam but with the passage of time these minorities are facing several problems. Secondly religious harmony is very essential in the present scenario. We need a fruitful dialogue on this issue. We will talk about the same issue with our worthy guests. I have Mr. Ahmad Ali Fayaz who is a religious scholar, Graduated from the renowned Banuria Institute in Karachi, and is a PhD scholar in Islamic university Islamabad. My second guest is Manager from Read Network Mr. Kashif Kamal. Haroon Sarbadyal will join us later who is the president of Hindu rights Movement.
Mr. Ahmad Ali Fayaz, I may ask you that Islam is called a complete code of life and it must have incorporated each and everything in it. Please brief us about the rights of minorities in Islam?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: Thank you very much for the invitation. Allah says in the holy Quran that âthere is no compulsion in religionâ. Everyone is free to profess his religion in the society. All the religious sights are sacred in Islamic society. If we look at the saying of the Holy prophet, he says that if a Muslim kills a non Muslim then that Muslim will never be allowed to enter paradise. There is another tradition of the holy prophet that if a Muslim exploits the rights of a non Muslim or usurp his rights then I will fight for the right of that non Muslim on the day of resurrection. Islam has given equal freedoms and rights to all the people whether they are Muslim or non Muslim. Islam has showed the right path and it is up to the people which path they follow. We see that during the golden period of the Khelafit, all the non Muslims had equal rights. There are several examples. Once, Hazrat Ali was sitting with Hazrat Omar when a Jew came there. The Jew accused Ali of some transgression. Hazrat Omar asked Ali to stand up with the Jew so that the case may be heard. Hazrat Ali stood up and listened to the decision of Hazrat Omar on equal basis.
Shams Mohmand: That was a golden period in Islamic history when Hazrat Omar showed to an example to the whole world to treat a personality like that of Hazrat Ali on equal footing with a common Jew. Mr. Kashif Kamal, please brief us about the aim of Read network in Pakistan?
Kashif Kamal: It is about the basic human rights. We try to provide the opportunity to have equal rights without any restrictions. Our aim was to safeguard the rights of all religious minorities in Pakistan. We all are responsible for it because we are in majority. At present, it is an independent network with 23 organizations working under the same umbrella. We are working in ten different districts. Our presence is in KPK, Baluchistan and Gilgat.
Shams Mohmand: What in your opinion are the major issues which are granted in the constitution to the minorities but the people in powers are not willing to concede it?
Kashif Kamal: When we talk about minority it means less in number and in power. The minority has many problems everywhere. Our constitution has tried to protect the rights of the minorities but changes come with the passage of time. All the people are suffering in Pakistan including minorities in Pakistan. But it Is our duty to protect the rights of minorities granted by our constitution. But the question is whether our system or people accept this fact or not? We respect the sanctity of our mosques but whether we respect the religious places of the minorities?
Shams Mohmand: What explanation is there in Islam for the respect of all the religious places of worship? In many countries Muslims are in minorities. Whether our places receive the same respect there?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: I may cite an example about the sanctity of all places of worship from the Islamic history. During the reign of Hazrat Omar Bin Abdul Aziz, a case came to him where a portion of a church was demolished. Hazrat Omar ordered the reconstruction of the church. Islam was in power but he acted according to the spirit of Islam. Sanctity and protection of all religious places of worship is binding on us in Islam. Even the worshipers of each religion have to be respected. No accusation is permitted about them. Our religion does not allow to degrade any founder of any religion. We have to rest our faith in all the prophets of Allah.
Shams Mohmand: A question comes to my mind that Islam is clear about the sanctity of all religion but if we consider the present situation when a person acts against our religion in any part of the world, our people resort to violent protest and destroy the properties of non Muslims. What role our Ulma are playing to make our people aware about true Islam?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: Some of the people are trying to portray Islam as a militant and backward religion. It is an international conspiracy to distort our image. It is natural that if our elders are insulted then furry is natural to emerge. It is needed that the concerned governments should stop such actions. Social media has still such insulting material which is not banned. But it is not permitted for a Muslim to harm other Muslims or non Muslims.
Shams Mohmand: It is true that it was not started by us and the culprit should be punished.
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: But even now they are stubborn and are not willing to punish the culprits.
Kashif Kamal: If we stress that Islam is different from other religion and is a progressive religion. But it certainly does not allow us to punish innocent people. News come to us from Sindh that Hindus are forced to convert to Islam. Our purpose is to give freedom to all the people in respect of religion.
Shams Mohmand: Force is not allowed in Islam for conversion. We want to make our people aware about these facts. It can earn you no virtue if you force a person to convert to Islam.
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: It is not permitted to transgress the teaching of Islam about worship and conversion.
Shams Mohmand: Our reporter Khalida has prepared a report about religious harmony. Let us listen to the report.
REPORT: Khalida Niaz, Peshawar.
A gathering was held in Peshawar press club by Journalist Welfare Safety and Development Foundation in collaboration with SPO. The topic was religious harmony and human rights development with protection for the rights of the minorities. Its aim was to find ways for religious harmony. In this gathering Ulma and other minorities also participated. At this occasion the chairman of religious harmony committee Moulana Muhammad Shoaib said that protest is allowed to each person but this protest should not harm the buildings of other religion. It is a crime..
âEveryone has the right to protest whether they are Muslims or Non Muslims. But it should e in the prescribed manner. It is not allowed in Islam to set on fire the places of worship. Our Prophet has forbidden us from such acts.â
Every individual in Pakistan belonging to nay religion can play his role because all are the citizens of this country. On this occasion, D., Jan Jee said that Pakistan is our motherland and love for the land is binding on all of usâ¦
âFirst of all we all are Pakistanis and this is our motherland. We should not degrade our motherland. We should unite beneath our flag. We want that we should curb all the foreign elements in our ranks.â
In Pakistan, almost all kind of minorities live in Pakistan. Mr. Gul Chand Singh was also present on the occasion belonging to Sikh community. He said that we want peace in Pakistan..
âIn the whole Pakistan peace is our dream. We want our country to make progress and peace all along. We endorse the cease fire and we wish the dialogue to e successful.â
According to the audience, Pakistan was found on the basis of Islam and Islam protects the rights of the minorities. It is the duty of the state to protect the rights of all minorities in Pakistan.
This was Khalida Niaz for CRSS from Peshawar.
Shams Mohmand: Dear listeners, welcome back in the show. You heard the report where a speaker termed the country as mother. He stressed unity under the same flag. In the present situation, when Pakistan is a target on the basis on religion and fundamentalism, what should we do along with our rulers?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: Hazrat Ibrahim sought permission from Allah to built Kaaba and said that make it an abode of peace. So peace is so much important for society. Islam means peace and safety. But when there is disturbance in a nation because of vested interests by the foreign powers, people do not pay attention to the religion.
Caller: this is Ilyas from Peshawar. My question is that Pakistan is an Islamic state and minorities must have rights in it. But ground realities are that minorities do not have all the rights. What are the efforts of Ahmad Ali Fayaz and the people like him in this regard?
Shams Mohmand: what individual efforts can we make?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: Law and religion grant several rights to the minorities but I reality they do not receive all the rights by the society. The reason is that we have grown up in a society where non Muslims are scarce. We have no greater understanding about the rights of minorities. We are not conscious about the rights of others.
Shams Mohmand: Mr. Kashif Kamal, we are not educated enough to know the rights of minorities. What role can NGOs and civil society play along with Ulma? What are your facts finding about the problems faced by the minorities in Pakistan?
Kashif Kamal: problems differ in each region but some of the problems are common. They cannot perform their worship openly. Our people looked down upon them and detest mixing up with them. We were having an interaction with Sikh in swat where a person told us that he was living in a hostel in Peshawar University. Nobody was willing to sit and eat with me. I shifted to a private room outside the hostel. Our people even do not take notice of our behavior. How bad it will be if someone refuses to shake hand with us. Our organization is making for the advocacy to change the behavior of our minorities. We are also making efforts for the financial uplift of minorities. We have arranged legal aid for them. We have a capacity building programme in the whole country for awareness. We have made human rights defenders in different regions. These persons are Muslims and are notable people in the society. This issue should be sensitized in our society. If we act according to the spirit of Islam then we do not need to look at the human rights charter and UNO. We have also formed an early warning system in each region. If a situation arises where minorities are in danger of facing some violence then we could be informed in advance.
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: I want to say that during the early life of Islam the relation of the companions were so good with the minorities. There was a non Muslim who demanded high price for his house on the ground that Abdullah Bin Masood was his neighbor. Our prophet was given poison in meal by a Jewish lady. Many non Muslim merchants would come to Medina and our holy prophet served them well. He used to eat with them.
Shams Mohmand: If we look in retrospect, we have so many Sikhs in our FATA. There are Christians and Hindus as well. I went to Tirah in 2007 and asked about their problems. They said that they have no problem. But the situation is worst at present. Many of them are migrating from Pakistan. What are the reasons?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: This is not a problem with minorities only but all the people from these regions are migrating. Situation is bad for all of us. Our mosques are not safe at present. I do not see that discrimination is responsible for it.
Shams Mohmand: I want your comment about the procedure to invite non Muslims to the fold of Islam. But those people who are under your protection, should they be forced to embrace Islam?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: Islam allows us to convince others to the fold of Islam. Forceful conversion is not permitted in Islam. Manners and conducts are so sublime in Islam that it attracts people. Islam was spread in the Sub continent by those merchants who were so honest and honorable.
Shams Mohmand: unfortunately we lack all the traits of a true Muslim.
Kashif Kamal: there is Muslim Marriage act where marriages are registered. But Hindu and Christian communities have no such facilities.
Shams Mohmand: sorry to cut you down but as I told that Haroon Sarbadyal has also arrived in the studio. Thank you so much for being with us. Please brief us about the common problems faced by your community in Peshawar?
Haroon Sarbadyal: I may say that we have good interaction with the society. All my best friends are Muslims. Even I was named by a Muslim. But the society at present is different from that which existed in the 80s. Now hatred literature is promulgated so much. Government sponsored this literature. Our common enemy is our curriculum. We want that KPK should be the first province to promulgate our marriage and inheritance acts according to our religion.
Shams Mohmand: What are the problems in registration?
Haroon Sarbadyal: Our birth and marriage registration are not legalized. No legislation has taken place in this matter.
Shams Mohmand: What efforts has Read Foundation made to sensitize our rulers? But my question from Haroon Sarbadyal is that do you have religious freedom to celebrate your weddings?
Haroon Sarbadyal: We can celebrate indoor but not outside. While a few years back our elders used to celebrate together. I used to fast during Ramadan. Our culture should be protected. Billions of rupees are spent for culture preservation but why we are not facilitated to preserve our culture. There are many religious sites in Pakistan and we donât have to go to India for our festivals but only of the government facilitate us. On 9th April we have a religious festival about Ram Bhagwan birthday. We request he government to promote our culture.
Shams Mohmand: Mr. Kashif Kamal I asked about your efforts?
Kashif Kamal: We are making efforts and a bill has been moved in the national Assembly about marriage registration. A minority commission on national level is our target on the same pattern as is established for women and child protection. On 25the December we grant a holiday to the Christian but Hindus and Sikh communities are not allowed to avail a holiday. One of my Hindu government servants told me that Hajj tax is also deducted from Hindus. It is ridiculous.
Shams Mohmand: There are many things which we cannot discuss on media but it is suffice to say that government is blind in one eye.
Haroon Sarbadyal: I want that in each legislative body the presence of minority is essential.
Shams Mohmand: Your presence is there in national and provincial assemblies.
Kashif Kamal: presence is there but main streaming is essential.
Shams Mohmand: Our society has become rigid and violent. Why is the gulf increasing?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: At present, gaps are also increasing even among the Muslims. Our people have no tolerance and are ignorant. We just pray that our situation ameliorate.
Shams Mohmand: What role can Ulma play to normalize the situation?
Ahmad Ali Fayaz: Ulma are trying to create harmony. We cannot fight the onslaught from abroad. We are trying to reform our people.
Shams Mohmand: What message would you like to convey to your own community?
Haroon Sarbadyal: I may address all the people in Pakistan that we should respect each other and love our country. We should make all the department accountable.
Shams: Mr. Kashif Kamal?
Kashif Kamal: I stress the need for legal rights to all the communities. All the minorities should have equal opportunities to lead a normal life.
Shams Mohmand: I am really thankful to all of you for being with us. I think that good manners and sublime conducts are the keys to have a harmonious society. Islam stresses to help the poor and weak people in the society. It is good bye for now.